I had a professional issue a few months back that took me back some. Sure it was upsetting but didn’t shake me – I know who I am and what my intentions are as a person and as a pro photographer. I don’t live in the past, as although you remind yourself not to take things personally, how can you not- especially when you have a passion in what you do, and work tirelessly to make it happen.
I use Facebook, enjoy connecting with friends, sharing images, posting various happenings. One day last year I posted a Sierra workshop in the events section. As a big fan of Galen Rowell’s work (great outdoor shooter and mountaineer who past away with his wife in a plane crash in ’02 – a young 62), I had joined a fan site of his on Facebook and decided to let others know of the workshop through a small message and link – Galen was big on the Sierras, spent many days and nights capturing images and climbing mountains there as I have – in fact John Muir’s book “The Yosemite” was re-printed using Galen’s images back in 2001. The fan site was not run by Galen’s company, yet by a fan, so I figured like-minded Sierra-lovin’ folk might be interested in a photo class.
I discovered Galen’s work when I was 17. We lived in the same Bay Area town and although I came to know him over the years, I couldn’t call him a friend. To me he was truly a kindred spirit (as he signed to me in one of his books). He was much like a mentor without the actual mentoring. I admired his work, attending a few of his lectures, but never inquired about how to run a photo business or get started in the industry. Out of respect, I felt that was my homework to do- my dues to pay.
My Facebook post went unnoticed – no one ever contacted me about our Sierra workshop through the site, until I received an email from someone who worked at Galen’s offices (who no longer works there). This person basically accused me of using Galen’s name, riding on his coattails to benefit my own career- truly laughable since nothing could be farther from the truth. Coming to know Galen’s staff over the years, I never once asked him for advice or for industry info, nor did I ever receive Galen’s help to get published, create a workshop, sell a gallery print, or make a stock sale. I know Galen admired me for this since so many did try to use his connections to benefit themselves. The ironic thing is when he passed, I was contacted by his office for advice on how to deal with a mutual client, which I gladly assisted with.
And of course to date I’ve been published around the world, shot hundreds of assignments, taught workshops for over 10 years, made thousands of stock sales, and sold numerous gallery prints. Although I’ve been lucky to have many wonderful people (clients, workshop students, editors) help make my dream of being a photographer come true, I didn’t get to the place I’m at by using others- I built my career through tons of hard work, late nights, sacrifice and perseverance. No one dragged my butt out of my tent to capture dawn, no one wrote my letters or emails to land jobs, no one did my research and planned my shoots but me.
So to get a message like this was not only insulting, but ridiculous. Nevertheless I followed up with a reply explaining my intentions, which were never to attach myself to Galen in any way. But what can you do. It doesn’t matter how you run your life or what your true intentions are, when someone opens their mouth without any forethought or research, you simply have to disregard their comments and move forward.
Although Galen’s presence was a source of great inspiration as I built a career in the industry, I rarely thought of him as I traveled the world on assignment. But when he past, he came to mind often. I remember in ’04 while on a job in St. Croix, overlooking the Caribbean sea while photographing at sunrise, I remember thinking “Aw Galen, you should be here to see this”. I wish he was.